The NYPD swarmed a migrant shelter in Brooklyn early Thursday morning to confiscate mopeds parked in front of it.
The situation quickly escalated with officers wielding stun guns and shoving migrants to the ground before leaving with six men in handcuffs and trucks full of confiscated mopeds, according to videos and eyewitness accounts.
The chaos unraveled outside the men’s shelter at 455 Jefferson St. in Bushwick, eyewitnesses said, as police moved in on the vehicles many migrants use for delivery work in a targeted raid of a kind that activists say has become much more frequent.
Hundreds of men at the shelter are facing eviction at the end of the month when their 60-day warnings expire, THE CITY previously reported.
As men tried to move their mopeds, officers began shoving migrants to the ground, and welding stun guns at the increasingly agitated crowd.
Stun guns can be heard in a video obtained by THE CITY, and several migrants said they saw police use the device on one man.
Police arrested six people, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed, charging them with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and other charges. Three of the men were also charged with assaulting a police officer, the spokesperson said.
Sixteen unregistered mopeds were seized at the scene and two officers suffered minor injuries in the confrontation, the spokesperson said.
Anderson Aragon, 28, said he saw officers punching men, and shoving another to the ground when he asked them about his moped.
“They grabbed them, they threw him on the ground like an animal,” Aragon said in Spanish. “[An officer had his] knee on his neck, and his head on the ground.”
‘How Will We Live?’
A spokesperson for Eric Adams didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the arrests, which came after the mayor delivered his starkest comments yet on the ongoing arrival of migrants in New York City to a crowd of Upper West Siders at a town hall. More than 59,700 migrants were in city care through Sunday, with more than 112,000 people in shelters overall, city officials said.
“This issue will destroy New York City,” Adams said on Wednesday evening. “The city we knew, we’re about to lose.”
The remarks, and the raid, came after the mayor hosted a rally last week calling on the federal government to expedite work authorization, with Adams declaring the federal government should “give them the opportunity to contribute to our society.”
Bushwick Councilmember Jen Gutiérrez slammed Thursday’s raid, and called out the mayor’s seemingly conflicting positions.
“This mayor can’t have it both ways, saying ‘we care about you and want you to thrive’ while at the same time targeting migrant shelters in this way,” Gutiérrez said, adding that city resources would be better spent helping migrants register their vehicles, than violently confiscating them repeatedly, hampering their ability to save money and move out of city shelters.
The mopeds are often a means for men in migrant shelters to earn money as food delivery drivers, even without legal authorization to work. While migrants are eligible for licenses under New York’s Green Light Law, many are unaware of how to go through the proper protocol, advocates say.
“He is fully aware of the role informal jobs play in helping these folks get on their feet,” Gutiérrez said of Adams, while noting that the raid came after community complaints about the mopeds.
Several hundred men staying at the 455 Jefferson Street shelter are also facing eviction from the shelter having received 60-day notices to vacate by the end of September. Many of them had previously told THE CITY they were pinching pennies ahead of their eviction, trying to save up funds to be able to move out of the shelter.
“If we don’t work, how will we live, every one of us has families,” Yoandri Barona, 32, said in Spanish hours after Thursday’s moped confiscations.
He said he understood why some of the migrants had tried to hang on to their bikes even as police tried to cart them away.
“It’s your source of work, your family, your food,” Barona said in Spanish. “How would you react?”